For developers in Latin America keeping up to date with the latest demands in skills is vital to remaining competitive, and more and more are turning to online learning to ensure they stay ahead in the skills game.
Javier Ntaca, based in Argentina, has been dedicated to systems development for over 35 years. He is currently working on Blockchain technologies for fintechs and social impact projects. The online learning sites of choice for him in terms of upskilling in his field are w3schools.com and StackOverflow.com.
Ntaca adds that StackOverflow.com is not only still the main reference for developers around the world (it even has a Spanish version), but its merit system and scores guarantee the quality not only of the answers, but also of the questions that are published.
Developers usually joke and define the “good programmer” as someone who “knows how to search, copy and paste StackOverflow answers”.
Diego Valenzuela, a developer for Softtek in Argentina, a global provider of IT process-oriented services with more than 30 offices in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia, agrees that StackOverflow is the programmers’ bible. “We consult on that platform any error, or most of the errors we get, on a daily basis. Sometimes someone has already solved it and if not, I wait for them to respond, usually very quickly.”
Price Plays a Role
Valenzuela emphasizes that developers tend to take advantage of online courses on platforms such as Platzi, Udemy and Coursera.org, especially if they are free. Price is usually a factor that determines the use, especially in Latam, and many times beginner programmers share subscriptions to learning sites, to reduce costs, according to Valenzuela.
Kenny Pérez, a Venezuelan developer who has lived in Chile for the last three years, works for a major IT services firm, Globant, whose headquarters are in Argentina. Pérez agrees with the use of online resources such as StackOverflow and others for the professional growth of developers.
Pérez explains: “Coursera is used a lot especially for issues related to Project Cycle Management or PCM, while Udemy is used for other specific issues, including administration and management of the Red Hat platform, very popular in Chile.”
Pérez points out that other major platforms, such as Amazon’s AWS, have chosen to hold events and face-to-face courses, in contrast to the more predominant online approach.
Pérez points out that the use of online tools depends a lot on the country. He sees a stark contrast between his home country of Venezuela – which has strong restrictions on access to foreign currencies – and Chile. But other countries, such as Peru, also have important differences in the use of online education, in this case due to the lower average speed of the network, argues Pérez.
Online education is so important to Pérez’s company that they even acquired acamica.com, a platform dedicated to educating developers. Within the company, developers are required to take a minimum of three courses per quarter to increase their competitiveness.
But for Ysrael Cárdenas of Futurealba, a company that develops information systems in Peru, mainly for government bodies, local developers do not use online courses as much for cultural reasons. Cárdenas says that while much of Peru does not have high-speed Internet connections, cities like Lima do have good connection speeds and are the places where most of the population is concentrated.
In Peru, having a certificate for a course is highly appreciated, says Cárdenas, and companies tend to give more importance to certificates than experience when hiring staff.
Innovation in Online Education
Valle Grande is a Peruvian educational institution – located just over two hours from the capital, Lima – that develops a novel educational model known as “alternation” that promotes shared studies with work experience.
Luis Manzo, in charge of developing these technological careers, says that in just three years they train young people as programmers with practical experience and GitHub, an online tool for sharing and storing code, is an important part of the process.
“Students use GitHub to store and share their code with other students, teachers and professors,” says Manzo. Students from low-income areas also use tools like StackOverflow to support software development.
Valle Grande students specializes in the use of online cloud tools, such as those provided by Google, and are able to set up virtual servers to run tests or work in production in a few minutes.
“Our students are so well prepared that in many opportunities they are selected together with students from renowned universities to opt for jobs, although they are only around 19 years old while the others average 24 years old or more,” says Manzo.